DERRY — Although many residents spoke out for months against it, town councilors approved a plan to rezone six parcels of property on the western end of town.
Councilors voted 5-1 at a meeting Sept. 3 to approve the move of four parcels from the Medium High Density Residential District and two from the General Commercial District over to the Office Business District zone.
Affected properties are along West Broadway and the Aiken, Valley, St. Charles Street neighborhoods.
The prospect of rezoning these properties started as a way to potentially support economic development and maximize possibilities for development that could also support Derry's tax base, according to Planning and Economic Development Assistant Elizabeth Robidoux.
The current rezoning measure had been whittled down from an original proposal calling for 20 single family properties to be moved into the Office Business District classification.
Robidoux said the newest plan came after several public hearings, site walks and reviews, discussions with residents and reviews of the area's topography.
"The Planning Board was concerned and trying to do the right thing for the town and residents in this area," Robidoux said, adding any development opportunities that may come to this area of town could bring more jobs, and have an effect on the tax base.
But residents who spoke out against the plan said it would alter their neighborhoods and create much stress and disruption.
Some said this idea to change zoning would not only affect their homes, but also the quality of life they have now in their well-established neighborhoods.
Tom May, 1 Valley St., provided a letter to the Planning Board at a previous hearing, signed by 63 residents who live in the affected areas. He also provided a letter to the council at the recent meeting stating he "vigorously" opposed the plan.
Aiken Street resident Lisa Joslyn noted the neighborhoods are made up of young families, elder residents, veterans and professionals. She has lived there for 34 years.
She said the entire process has caused a lot of stress in residents' lives.
Robidoux stressed that when permitted uses and architectural design regulations are studied moving forward, the rezoning won't change the character of anyone's home.
"And no none can force you to sell your home or leave your home," she said. "We will make sure any businesses coming in are held to a very high standard."
Town Councilor Brian Chrichiello said even if the zoning amendment is approved, things don't happen overnight. He cited the case of his mother-in-law, living across the street from his own residential-zoned home on Rollins Street and in a commercial/business district.
"Just because you change the zone, people don't get yanked out of their homes with no place to go," Chirichiello said. "That's not the case."
Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores was the lone vote against the rezoning plan. She said residents living in that area of town don't want to see their area changed.
"When are we going to start listening to the people?" she asked. "They don't want this."
Council Chairman Neil Wetherbee was confident in his vote.
"We heard the residents loud and clear," he said. "And I will be quite confident that this will not change the character of the neighborhood."